When people think of dangerous professions, it’s usually police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders that come to mind. But hotel housekeepers are especially prone to unsafe conditions, their jobs requiring them to enter private rooms with total strangers.
According to a 2016 survey, fifty-eight percent of housekeepers have experienced sexual harassment on the job.*
That’s why Yasmine Mustafa founded ROAR for Good and developed their product, AlwaysOn, a discrete, wearable tracking device that enables hotel staff to alert security. In this episode of UpTech Report, Yasmine walks us through the inspiration behind this device, how they’ve worked to deploy it in the private sector, and where it could be applied in the future.
More information: https://www.roarforgood.com/
Yasmine Mustafa is a social entrepreneur and the CEO & Co-Founder of ROAR for Good. Based in Philadelphia, ROAR is a woman-led and mission-driven technology company dedicated to cultivating safer workplaces. Their staff safety platform, The AlwaysOn™, is specifically designed for the hotel industry. Fueled by a passion to leverage technology for good, she leads the ROAR team in its mission to create safer workplaces and empowered communities.
Dedicated to fostering inclusive opportunities in business and education, Yasmine draws upon her own experiences as an immigrant and woman in tech to create a platform for conversation and igniting change. In addition to ROAR for Good, Yasmine launched a Philly non-profit providing affordable opportunities for women to learn software development. She also serves on the board of Coded by Kids which provides free tech education for underserved youth.show more
Her role as a leader and advocate has been recognized by the BBC, CNBC’s Upstart 100, Philadelphia Magazine, Philadelphia Business Journal, Technical.ly Philly, and the City of Philadelphia, among others. She is a 2x TEDx speaker with a roster of speaking credits that also include SXSW and CES.
Prior to launching ROAR for Good, Yasmine founded and sold her first company to a prominent content marketing firm in Silicon Valley. She graduated summa cum laude from Temple University with a Business Management Degree.show less
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Yasmine Mustafa 0:00
What we do is we pivoted so that our solution work indoors. So now the panic buttons go to the housekeeper’s. We work directly with the hotel owners and general managers to outfit their buildings with our technology. And if anything happens, they push a button, we triangulate their location and summon help to exactly where they are.
Alexander Ferguson 0:26
When people think of dangerous professions, it’s usually police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders that come to mind. But hotel housekeepers are especially prone to unsafe conditions. Their jobs require them to enter private rooms as total strangers. According to a 2016 survey 58% of the housekeepers have experienced sexual harassment on the job. That’s why Yasmine Mustafa founded ROAR for good and develop their product always on a discreet wearable tracking device that enables hotel staff to alert security.
In this episode of UpTech Report, Yasmin walks us through the inspiration behind the device, how they worked to deploy it in the private sector, and where it could be applied in the future. So excited to chat with you today and dig into more roar for good to begin, can you explain it very briefly five seconds? What would you say?
Yasmine Mustafa 1:16
What were what were for good. It’s all about we are all about cultivating safer workplaces for vulnerable populations.
Alexander Ferguson 1:24
This concept, where did it originate? What was the problem that you saw the like, I need to solve this.
Yasmine Mustafa 1:29
We started differently. So we pivoted. So if you want to start from the beginning, the problem that I saw was that the violence against women, the stats were horrific. And self defense tools have been developed by men for men, not necessarily taken into account women’s needs. I came up with an idea after backpacking through South America for a few months and just meeting woman after woman that would share a story of a time they’ve been attacked or harassed, harassed or abused. And then a week after I came back to Philly, my neighbor was raped a block from our apartment building. And the initial idea was why don’t we combine wearable technology with self defense tools. That is when wearable tech was all the rage Fitbits, misfits, they were everywhere and, and really wanted to build something for women by women and, and that’s what we did, we built a safety wearable called Athena after the Greek goddess of wisdom, power and justice. And the Holy idea was to have something that was readily accessible. So if you needed it was right there versus pulling it out of your pocket or your purse, something that looked nice. So something you wanted to wear, something that could help deter and attack and call for help. And what we also wanted to do was not just put the onus just on women, this is a problem that is mostly perpetuated by men. And so what we did is we became a B Corp certified company. And what we also did is a portion of the proceeds that we made from safety wearable, we actually took a portion of that worked with nonprofits that would work with young kids in teaching them about consent, respect, healthy relationships, and we invested those proceeds in some of those nonprofits to work on the long term problem of violence against women, what will actually reduce violence attacks in the first place?
Alexander Ferguson 3:15
So both the purpose of the product as well as the purpose of the existence of of the organization to solve that underlying problem now, you said it’s changed. So now, how is it morphed? And what is it?
Yasmine Mustafa 3:26
Yeah, how it’s morphed is that we change to go from personal safety to workplace safety. So now instead of someone is outdoors, and they feel like in trouble and they push a button and get help, and now you are in a workplace, and specifically right now we’re addressing hospitality, hotels, 58% of housekeepers experience sexual harassment on the job, they tend to be women of color immigrants, 70% speak English as a second language. They’re required to clean on average about 15 rooms a day. Every day, they go to work, they put themselves at risk, they open those doors, and they never know what’s on the other side. Unfortunately, they’re groped, they’re solicited for sex acts, guests are just completely nude and the power dynamics there lend themselves to a lot of that type of harassment. And so what we do is we pivoted so that our solution work indoors. So now the panic buttons go to the housekeeper’s. We work directly with the hotel owners and general managers to outfit their buildings with our technology. And if anything happens, they push a button, we triangulate their location and summon help exactly where they are. We install beacons in a room and that’s basically what identifies the location. All the beacons are connected. So the housekeeper’s room for nine something happens she runs down the stairwells, we can keep track of exactly where she is all the time because each beacon will ping each other based on the Bluetooth signal of our alert to be able to pinpoint her location. We will only track once the alert was pressed. But yes to your point. It’s a connected smart system. That is allows them to be able to summon help and whenever they need
Alexander Ferguson 5:04
your business balls is a SAS or is it a capital cost? That’s they just got to buy the whole program?
Yasmine Mustafa 5:11
Yeah, it’s a upfront hardware. So so for the equipment, there’s training and installation, and then it is a monthly SAS, the core of our revenue is a monthly subscription that we charge for using the entire platform.
Alexander Ferguson 5:25
Gotcha. Is there any other type of technology or competitors out there in existence? That’s similar or different? Yeah,
Yasmine Mustafa 5:33
there’s there’s plenty actually, it’s interesting in hospitality in particular, why it’s booming, or why it was booming before. COVID is because of legislation. So back in 2011, I don’t know if you’ve heard this story of the French diplomat Dominique Strauss, he was in New York saying at the Sofitel Hotel, he raped the housekeeper their mate was the news became public. And unfortunately, he was never indicted of any charges. Meanwhile, the press found her exes and family and dragged her reputation through the mud. It was really an unfortunate incidents. And as you can imagine her friends there, the other housekeepers became really upset by how she was treated and formed the coalition demanding protection, and then that spread nationwide. And then at the height of the metoo movement in 2017, they were able to convince the very first Congress person in Seattle to pass what they called the hands off pants on bill, because they wanted the guest to keep their hands off and keep their pants on. And then again, momentum passed in Chicago, Miami. So far, there’s a nine city requirements, and three states have passed this legislation. So a lot of this has been fueled by compliance requirements that hotels have to fulfill. And when we were first getting started, or when this first happened, there weren’t many competitors in this space. But now there’s at&t that has jumped into the ring, PwC sprint, so they’re seeing this opportunity from small startups like us to bigger companies like like them, because of this legislation? And what’s happening?
Alexander Ferguson 7:04
How do you see your technology different? Are you are also looking to license your technology? Like what then for you moving forward to stay competitive? Provide?
Yasmine Mustafa 7:14
Yeah, well, what I would say is, we have a immense advantage in that we started by building designing and manufacturing our own safety wearable, it’s very difficult to get a Bluetooth device working on Android and iOS phones. And so we were able to build that expertise over time. Not to mention that we built something using feedback directly from users. So we made sure it was easy to use something that prevents false alarms, something that people want to wear, which definitely helped. And then moving and pivoting into this, this solution that we have now, we’ve been able to leverage that which is experience to actually build what is now a patent pending solution. So we were able to build what we believe, and of course, what we hear from customers, although we of course, are biased, a better solution, using Bluetooth. And so not to mention that the company is very diverse, we are the exact demographic that we are looking to help. And and we’re we’re very mission led. So we really believe in what we’re doing, we really want to help. Everything that we do is not just focused on the decision maker, which tends to be the hotel owner, hotel manager, hotel management company. But we’re also collecting input directly from the housekeepers themselves, the users, who are interfacing with our system day in and day out to make sure that we’re leveraging their feedback into building something that’s truly useful for them and truly works for their needs. So yeah, I would say price, performance and mission are where we tend to excel.
Alexander Ferguson 8:49
Going forward from here, what’s your near term goals and objectives? So next year, so that you’re focused on the roadmap, and then long term? Where are you moving towards?
Yasmine Mustafa 8:59
Yeah, I mean, my goal is that for vulnerable populations to put themselves at work, or at risk when they go to work, I truly believe that no one should be afraid to go to work on it. But unfortunately, that’s just not reality for most people, is that they asked for our solution. They as they’re being hired, as they’re being recruited, especially in industries that have a labor shortage, the hotel industry does the nurse nurses, there’s a labor shortage, that they’re going to their hiring manager or whoever it is they’re talking to and saying, Hey, so what kind of workplace system do you have in place? Right now our short term objectives are very different because of COVID. So right now, we are expanding to healthcare, we’re looking to see what we can do to help nurses who experience violence on the job. Something that still boggles my mind is that their nurses are more likely to be assaulted than police officers and prison guards. So as the mental health population has increased substance abuse population has increased. They’re entering the hospital’s trauma unit That’s er centers and they spit on choke nurses and, and it’s been assumed to be part of the job for a really long time. The me to movement has also shed light on this violence and more people are speaking up, which is great. But we’re looking to see what we can do in health care. But yeah, we’ve been heavily impacted by COVID. So right now looking at what other verticals, what other opportunities are there that we can get into and find ways to help. But longer term, what we really see is we want to build an IoT platform that’s specifically focused on safety that is industry agnostic. So if you’re anywhere in a place where you want a wireless call system that someone’s helped your location are always on solution. Is that for you?
Alexander Ferguson 10:44
Awesome? Where can people go to learn more and what’s a good first step for them to take?
Yasmine Mustafa 10:49
They can go to that website. Our website definitely needs a little bit of work, but they can start there, roar for good calm, OROARFRZOD calm and in terms of steps to take and then we’re always just looking for referrals, people who are interested in taking care of their employees. What we’ve seen is when you take care of your employees, it actually enhances the bottom line significantly for companies. It reduces turnover increases employee satisfaction, morale across the board. And some companies are looking more at short term benefits versus long term benefits. But those long term benefits are there can make a huge difference. Be sure
Alexander Ferguson 11:25
to check out part two of my conversation with Yasmin in which he takes us on a journey from having an idea to quitting her job to forming our own company and how she continued to develop relationships with our clients, when many of them were shutting their doors.